Anime, Anime Reviews

Review: Given Movie

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The following review contains spoilers for the Given Movie and the anime series. 

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The Given movie is the 59 minute follow-up to 2019’s smash anime series of the same name. Adapted from an ongoing manga series, Given centres around a band of boys – two highschoolers and two college students – as they fall in love with playing music together, and with each other.

Of course, the anime left off with Mafuyu and Uenoyama getting together after some mutual pining and dealing with some underlying trauma. The focus of this movie shifts to their bandmates Akihiko and Haruki. We discovered in the series that Haruki has been in love with Akihiko for some time, whereas Akihiko seems to be a lot more of a playboy and has a different girl on his arm constantly.

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Having read the manga past this story arc, I was a little hesitant to watch the film. There was a lot I didn’t like about the arc portrayed in the film when I read it in the manga. That’s not to say it’s not good, it’s just very raw and a little bit darker but this shouldn’t be a surprise with the content from the first series of the show in mind.

Throughout the movie, it’s very clear that Akihiko has a very toxic relationship with his live-in lover Ugetsu. Neither of them seem to really want to give the other up, but they’re absolutely no good for each other. This is pretty clear throughout the whole movie. Akihiko’s behaviour ends up spiralling as a result and he acts in a truly despicable way. There’s an interesting juxtaposition between Akihiko’s behaviour when he’s influenced by interactions with Ugetsu, and those with Haruki which further cements the toxicity of Akihiko’s relationship.

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Throughout the movie there’s a multitude of levels to the characterisation. At first glance, Akihiko and Ugetsu seem like thoroughly despicable characters, both only looking out for themselves, and whilst there certainly seems to remain an element of this, there’s also a lot of depth to their relationship which becomes uncovered and you can begin to kind of see why they act the way they do. There’s also a undertone of not being able to let your first love go, which I think a lot of people can relate to.

With Ugetsu in mind, I’m really pleased at how he has been portrayed. I think it would have been really easy for him to be vilified as the mean man who is keeping Akihiko and Haruki apart, but there’s actually a really soft side to him and he is characterised really well. His interactions with Mafuyu are especially touching, as we see him helping Mafuyu to write a new song and eventually learning to trust him enough to talk about his feelings with him.

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As you’d expect from a film centred around the lives of musicians, the music in Given is impeccable. From Ugetsu’s classical violin playing, to the rock stylings of the band, the music throughout is evocative and emotional. The music always really adds to the emotion of any scene, and perfectly encapsulates the feeling of the moment.

A lot is packed into the Given movie’s short run-time, which can kind of leave your head reeling, but there are some really sweet and tender moments in amongst all of the angst. The Given movie is a near perfect continuation of a series which was so beloved, and won’t disappoint fans.

9 stars

Anime, Anime Reviews

Review: Blood Lad

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Anime: Blood Lad
Studio: Brain’s Base
Crunchyroll description: Staz is one of the toughest vampires in the demon world. But unlike his ancestors, he finds being a vampire to be a serious pain in the ass and prefers to spend his time watching anime and playing video games instead. When a Japanese girl named Fuyumi wanders into his territory, Staz cannot hide his excitement at finally meeting a living human from his favourite culture.
Genres: Action, Comedy, Supernatural, Seinen
Original run: 08/07/2013 to 11/9/2013
Episodes: 10

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As much as I love supernatural genre anime, I’m often put off. I’ve watched some really great shows which fall in the genre, but I’ve also watched some duds, and my search for my absolute favourite supernatural show continues (though props to Erased and Parasyte which are leading the pack). Supernatural shows can be convoluted, packed with conflicting lore and hard to follow, but done right, they can be exciting and a fun break from reality.

Blood Lad follows the story of Staz. C Blood, a vampire and the boss of his territory, one of the most powerful demons in the demon world. Staz is an otaku, fascinated with the human world and amassing a collection of manga, anime and figurines that would put most IRL weebs to shame. When a Japanese girl named Fuyumi enters the demon world by accident, Staz feels like he’s hit the jackpot – that is, until she dies. Staz vows to resurrect Fuyumi, who is now living in the demon world as a ghost.

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Straight off the bat, it’s revealed that Staz hates being a vampire, he finds it incredibly arduous and has no interest in doing ‘typical’ vampire activities, like drinking blood. He’d much rather stay indoors and watch anime, or play games. I really liked this juxtaposition and it was fun to see Staz reluctantly using his power, as well as see how he feels about other demons.

Blood Lad is chock full of fan service. All female characters have boobs that are disproportionately big, not to mention which employ their own laws of physics. There are upskirt shots aplenty, and situations where Fuyumi in particular is found in compromising positions. It’s a little off-putting, and I definitely think the show is strong enough to not have to rely on these sorts of things to keep interest. However, I’m not a fan of overt fan-service in the first place, so even if this was perfectly placed and tonally perfect, I probably wouldn’t have liked it anyway.

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Around the midway point of the season, the show introduces a ‘big bad’ who is supposed to be a super demon, the toughest ever and who noone can defeat. This turns out to be incredibly anti-climatic, and easily defeated. There’s a hint that this could develop in the future, but as I’ll discuss later, this goes nowhere.

The fight scenes themselves are really cool and well animated. With the anime being set in the demon world, each character has their own strengths and powers, and it was really interesting to see these powers being used and the different tactics of how the powers could be used to their advantages and even against them.

Blood Lad features a great cast of supporting characters, from Staz’s own allies to his enemies and beyond. I didn’t feel like there were any weak characters, apart from perhaps Fuyumi herself. She just sort of goes along with whatever everyone tells her to do, and doesn’t really ever voice her own opinions or say what she wants. I get that she’s in a strange world (and also kinda dead), but she was just sort of subservient and submissive, which was disappointing.

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Speaking of disappointing, the end of Blood Lad is infuriating. Don’t go into this anime if you like things wrapped up neatly. For whatever reason, there isn’t a second season, so it just ends with no resolution. It’s all perfectly set up for another season, but it just doesn’t exist, and the only way for me to get closure is to add the manga to my to read list.

Blood Lad is super fun, and doesn’t take itself seriously at all. I laughed out loud on several occasions throughout the series, and came to really love a lot of the characters. The lack of a satisfactory standalone ending loses Blood Lad some points, but in general it’s an enjoyable watch.

7 stars

Anime, Anime Reviews

Review: IDOLiSH7

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Anime: IDOLiSH7
Studio: TROYCA
Crunchyroll description: A group of aspiring idols gather at Takanashi Productions and are entrusted with the company’s future. The seven men who have just met represent a variety of totally different personalities. However, they each have their own charm and possess unknown potential as idols. Forming a group, they take their first step together as “IDOLiSH7.” Their brilliantly shining dancing forms onstage eventually begin captivating the hearts of the people. In the glorious but sometimes harsh world of idols, they aim for the top with dreams in their hearts.
Genres: Music
Original run: 07/01/2018 to 19/05/2018
Episodes: 17

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If I remember 2020 for anything other than being an all round dumpster fire of a year, it’ll be for being the year I got really into anime idol music. I had a lot of IDOLiSH7 songs on various playlists way before I watched the anime, and I loved them, so I thought it was finally time to dive into the show. For context, I haven’t played the game.

In my limited experience with idol anime, they tend to be quite formulaic; band forms, band has some issues bonding which they get over, band hits success and all is well. Throw in a rival band who are mostly assholes, and you’ve got yourself a show. Whilst IDOLiSH7 does play on a lot of these tropes, it does them really well.

The anime follows the creation of the band, IDOLiSH7, and their journey to debut and beyond. IDOLiSH7 are given a new manager, Tsumugi, who is brand new to the company (that her father owns, nepotism much?), so it’s as much a new experience for their manager as it is for the boys in the band.

Anime based on music live and die by their songs, and IDOLiSH7 has some great ones. I was already pretty familiar with some of them, having listened to mostly idol music all throughout the year, so it was really cool to see them in the context of the show. In the few idol anime I’ve seen before, during performance scenes the animation style switches to CG and it’s really jarring. It’s still very strange to me to see the sudden switch in animation but fortunately, in IDOLiSH7 I didn’t find it too bad and it seemed quite natural and well done.

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What I especially loved about IDOLish7 was the characterisation. Often with a big cast like this, you run the risk of a lot of the characters being under developed and treated very much like a supporting cast. IDOLiSH7 does a great job of giving each of the main characters their own plots and time to shine. Sure, some characters do seem more ‘main’ than others, which is probably an inevitability, but it’s done in a natural way that doesn’t make it seem like these characters are overshadowing others or stealing from their screen time.

IDOLiSH7 is an example of idol anime done correctly. From great characters to catchy songs, all paired with solid animation. It’s really fun to take a journey like this with characters who are so endearing and well meaning, and I’d recommend IDOLiSH7 to anyone who likes idol music or shows!

8 stars

Anime, Anime Reviews

Review: Tsuredure Children

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Anime: Tsuredure Children
Studio: Studio Gokumi
Crunchyroll description: To those of you out there who could never say “I love you” – this story is about ordinary highschoolers and how love makes them fired up, shaken, laugh, cry and hurt. Whether things go well or not, this story of adolescence and romance will show you how they spend their precious youth. Every character is the main character here, and you’re sure to find one you can sympathize with.
Genres: Comedy, Romance, School, Shounen
Original run: 04/07/2017 to 19/09/2017
Episodes: 12

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The theme of my summer anime seems to have been mostly me watching things and not really knowing what I was getting myself into. I had no intention of watching Tsuredure Children, but my housemate recommended to me, and as it was only about 10 minutes per episode, I didn’t have a reason to pass it up. I’m so glad I watched it.

I’ve seen a lot of people saying Tsuredure Children was the unexpected hit of last season and I wholeheartedly agree.

The basic premise of Tsuredure Children shows you snapshots of different sets of couples. Not every couple features every week, but across the series you get to follow the different stages of their relationship. There are a lot of characters crammed into this show, and going in, I was really apprehensive about how a 10-minute show was going to build on all of these relationships and develop the characters, but that’s the beauty of Tsuredure Children.

It’s surprising how quickly you can get invested in characters that really, you’re only seeing on screen for a couple of minutes each week, but Tsuredure Children presents us with some really likeable and well written characters. There’s the danger of having a lot of bland characters, or a few with similar personality types, but this anime seems to avoid this and all characters are memorable in their own right.

Each couple’s story brings something different to the show. Some are funny, some are emotional, and some are just downright bizarre, but they all fit together and make a really endearing and heartwarming package. Yes, I liked more of the individual stories than others, but there weren’t any that I really disliked. I especially liked the way some of the stories linked into each other, making them feel part of a whole rather than standalone offerings.

By the end of the series I did feel like some stories weren’t resolved as much as they could have been, and made way to Chiaki and ­­­­­Kana’s story instead, but the show started with some relationships already begun, so I guess the idea is that it ends with them and their issues ongoing.

Conclusion:

Tsuredure Children is a delightfully unassuming anime, which evokes all sorts of feelings. It’s heartwarming, funny and just a wonderful look at young love and all the ups and downs associated with it.

Anime, Anime Reviews

Review: Netsuzou TRap

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Anime: Netsuzou TRap
Studio: Creators in Pack
Crunchyroll description: Yuma, a high school second-year, is enjoying every day now that she has her first boyfriend. After she asks for relationship advice from Hotaru, her beautiful long-time friend who has many boyfriends, Hotaru teases her for her inexperience and playfully does things to her that even her boyfriend doesn’t do. Yuma and Hotaru’s secret relationship continues to escalate, and Yuma finds herself unable to deny how it makes her feel. This school drama tells the story of the interwoven lies of these two girls with boyfriends.
Genres: Drama, Shoujo Ai
Original run: 05/07/2017 to 20/09/2017
Episodes: 12

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I’m not sure what I expected Netsuzou TRap (NTR) to be going into it, but I know it wasn’t what I got. The Crunchyroll description makes it sound like some sort of cute drama about two girls who realise they have feelings about each other. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I honestly hated almost all of it, and had it not been for the fact that each episode not been 8 minutes long and I was desperate to boost my numbers for my anime challenge, I would have given it up after giving it three episodes.

As mentioned in the Crunchyroll description, the premise is that two friends are dating two friends, and they fool around with each other and eventually realise they have feelings for each other, not their boyfriends. What the description doesn’t mention is that a lot of the ‘playful’ things Hotaru does to Yuma are completely unsolicited and in fact downright rejected, giving a really rapey vibe to the whole show.

Let’s start by examining the characters. You have Yuma, the main character, who is possibly one of the most idiotic and oblivious characters I’ve ever come across in anything. She could have everything spelled out for her and she still wouldn’t understand. It takes Yuma the full 12 episodes of NTR to realise she has feelings for Hotaru. Quite why she does is anyone’s guess, because Hotaru is a real piece of work. Hotaru constantly ignores Yuma’s protesting and forces herself onto her on more than one occasion, all the meanwhile telling Yuma it’s for her own good because she doesn’t want to lose her boyfriend, Takeda, due to her inexperience. Hotaru is manipulative to the extreme, and doesn’t care at all about Yuma; never asking her feelings or even listening to what she’s saying.

As if these two delights aren’t enough, the worst is yet to come. Hotaru’s boyfriend, Fujiwara, is the scum of the earth. I know that’s the point of him, to make Yuma look like the obvious choice for Hotaru, but honestly I kind of feel like him and Hotaru deserve each other. For every negative attribute Hotaru displays, Fujiwara just amplifies it. Throughout the whole show you think there can’t be much left for him to do

The only bright spot on this whole stain of a show is Yuma’s boyfriend, Takeda. He’s genuinely a nice person, which is apparently rare in this universe. He cares for people, and just doesn’t deserve what Yuma puts him through.

I feel like the point of NTR is to get you behind Yuma, but it’s just not possible. She is so thoroughly unlikeable, that there’s just no lure to invest in her as a character. She doesn’t care about others, why should we care about her? In discussion with my housemate about NTR, he said the only resolution to the plot that he would accept is if all the characters got hit by a truck, “except Takeda… he’s alright”, and I have to say I agree.

Conclusion:

A vapid excuse for a show that wants to push towards a happy ending for characters who don’t deserve one. It has it’s funny moments, but nothing that stands out on reflection. It should be an easy show to forget, but it’s so bad it regrettably lingers in memory.